Because of my husband’s busy and relatively unpredictable work schedule, we’ve worked hard to make the most of the hours he’s home.
One step we’ve taken is to have a general rule that weekends are family days, not friend days. So on Saturdays and Sundays, we want the children with us, not necessarily playing outside with friends. (During the week, Lee has been able to sit outside and study while the children played outside with friends, so this isn’t an absolute rule for all time. We just wanted to keep weekends separate.)
On Saturday, my oldest was disappointed that we told him to stay inside with our family. We had already been on a bike ride as a family. We had run errands together (no, you cannot stay home). We were preparing for company to come for dinner, and we desired his help.
He doesn’t understand why we care that he’s with us. We’ve been reassuring him that we want him to spend time with his friends, but that we also want them to spend time with their daddy. I’ve said “I want you to spend time with your friends when your daddy isn’t home.” That seems to help. But they still walk around displeased.
I’ve been interested in this response. They’re children, and they don’t have the perspective of adults. They can’t understand that their daddy’s schedule is erratic, and that when he’s home we’re going to take advantage of that time. I have a vague idea that this is a challenge parents have when their children are getting older and making plans on their own. However, I’m wondering whether this is another family habit that becomes a non-issue over time simply because it’s the way we do things.
Of course every family is different. These aren’t inherently spiritual choices. I’m mostly examining my children’s reaction to our decisions, and my response to their reactions. I’m noticing that perhaps I haven’t communicated consistently the reasons for allowing our children to go out or not. That might be because I’m still thinking through the approach to friendships that I want to have. They spend a great deal of time already outside with friends, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have non-friend times. I’m wondering about how my children receive our family culture; whether they ultimately accept it, or whether they resent it. Having close friends with a vastly different culture may make a difference in their response, so I’m interested in that interaction, too.